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Stories from the world of paper

A “Drinkable Book”

2014-08-27 - Paper is well known for its information and packaging uses, but it can do so much more: paper can promote health and even save lives. Just how this is possible is outlined in the following story.

Millions of people around the world do not have access to clean water. Every year, 3.4 million people die of diseases transmitted by bacteria in their drinking water. American scientist Theresa Dankovich has made the fight for clean water her life’s work. At McGill University, she developed a special paper which filters disease-causing organisms from water. It is intended to help solve the fresh water problem in the emerging nations of the world. The paper is now being distributed in the form of a book with the title “Drinkable Book”.
Silver as a filter. As part of her doctorate at McGill University in Montreal (Canada) Dankovich discovered that nanoparticles of silver embedded in a sheet of paper can filter bacteria which cause diseases such as typhus, cholera and hepatitis out of fresh water. The chemicals with which the paper is treated are, without exception, renewable and non-toxic.
Off to Africa. The idea of purifying contaminated water is not new. But until now, its implementation has failed primarily due to cost. That is why Theresa Dankovich planned to develop a paper filter which is, above all, cheap and long-lasting. In order to take her filter paper from the lab to the people, she needed support, which she found in the non-profit organization WaterIsLife and the international advertising agency DBB. Supported by her sponsors, Dankovich, who now teaches at the University of Virginia (USA), traveled with a group of students to South Africa to test her filter paper in field trials. The results were outstanding. A single sheet of paper can purify water for up to 40 days, with the filtered water being 99.9 percent pure.
Water and education. The realization of a cheap, environmentally friendly paper filter for water was, in itself, a major advance, but it did not solve one aspect of the problem. Even more serious than the contaminated water is the lack of knowledge of people in very poor countries. And because many people lack fuel, they do not even have the ability to boil their water before it is drunk. At this point, designer Brian Gartside got involved. He came across Dankovich’s project on the Internet and contacted her with the idea of making a book out of filter paper with information on water hygiene and the filter itself on its pages. From this idea came the “Drinkable Book” and the idea quickly took form.
Water hygiene in Swahili. Every page of the “Drinkable Book” is perforated in the middle and thus divided into two filters. On the upper part in English it says, “The water in your village may contain diseases,” and using the filter will make it so clean that it can be drunk safely. The lower half contains the same information in the various local languages. Thus, both foreign and native helpers can explain how to protect against disease-causing organisms in the water. The first 100 books, which are all handmade, were printed in English and Swahili and are to be distributed in Kenya. The group wants to produce the book as cheaply as possible in order to be able to provide it to the needy. A single page should cost only a few cents in the future. The long-term goal is to supply all 33 countries in which WaterIsLife operates. One copy of the “Drinkable Book” can provide clean water for one person for up to four years.


The Huffington Post:


Brian Gartsi:

The Drinkable Book: